In our previous installment of “Steps Toward a New Home”, we looked at municipal utilities that are already available to a homeowner near a residential building site. But what happens if you want to build in the country…away from municipal services? Not to worry. Let’s take a look at some things you’ll need to consider:
Electricity: Unless you’ll be using a generator to create your own electricity, you’ll need to connect to a major electrical supplier, such as Wisconsin Public Service. WPS maintains electrical main lines, near virtually every public roadway. Private roads may also have electrical service near them if there are already houses close by. Electricity that serves an individual home must first branch off the high-voltage mainline and run through a transformer to reduce the voltage to a level that household appliances can safely use. The cost to install a private electrical line to your home is directly related to the distance from the transformer to your home.….the greater the distance, the greater the installation cost. Your private line may be installed overhead or underground—if you would like it out of sight. These choices will affect your final installation cost. Your electrical usage is measured by a meter and you’re charged directly by WPS for your monthly energy consumption.
Water: As there is no municipal water service in rural areas, you’ll have to drill a well to supply your home with fresh water. The depth of the well varies by the depth of the water supply, or “aquifer”, in your location. In some areas, a well needs only to be a few hundred feet deep, while others may need to be 400-500 feet deep in order to locate a clean, reliable source of water. The cost of a well depends mainly on its depth. Once drilled, your plumber or well driller will install a pump down the well. The water is pumped from the well into a pressure tank, usually located in your crawlspace or basement, which will then force the water to all locations in your home with the appropriate amount of pressure to serve your needs. Once the well and pressure system are installed, the only additional cost you will incur is the monthly cost of electricity to run your well pump.
Sewer: In a rural area you’ll need a way to manage your wastewater from sinks, showers, drains, washers and toilets. Typically, a septic system needs to be installed outside near your home. A septic system is basically a filtration system that allows the wastewater from your home to filter through the ground, where it is naturally cleaned and purified before it travels back to the aquifer, hundreds of feet below ground. There are many different types of systems available, each one varying in complexity and cost, depending on the depth and type of the native soil near your home. In most systems, all the waste from the home is collected in an underground septic tank. The solid materials will collect in the bottom of the tank and the liquids are sent to the filtration field, either by gravity or by pump, where they seep into the surrounding soil. The solids will need to be removed from the tank over a several year period. Regular minor maintenance should allow the septic system to work properly for many years. If you are in an area with very little soil for drainage, you may need a holding tank, in which all the household wastewater is collected and stored. When the tank is full, the waste is pumped out and hauled to a local treatment plant for purification.
LP Gas: Liquified Propane or “LP”, is a combustible gas that is derived from the refinement of Natural Gas. LP is used in rural areas where Natural Gas is not available. Appliances such as water heaters, clothes dryers and stoves may utilize LP gas instead of electricity. Many fireplaces use LP instead of burning wood. If you choose to utilize LP, the supplier will usually allow you to lease a storage tank from them as well. The supplier regularly delivers propane to your tank and charges you for the bulk delivery.
Telephone and Communication Lines: As noted in our chapter about municipal utilities, telecommunication and internet technology is changing so rapidly, and there are so many options for how people utilize their phones, TVs, computers, etc. The best advice is to contact professionals in these fields as you’re planning your home construction so that the most current information and infrastructure is available.
“The Main Point” – Choosing to live in a rural area should not deprive a home owner of all the same “comforts of home” available in a more urban area. Just do your research in advance so you’re clear on the installation costs, and also be aware that, as a homeowner, you’ll need a bit more knowledge about the use and maintenance of these service items.